Tuesday, March 21, 2017

~ if only ~

If only.

There are times when
the lines are blurred
between here and never.
It's hard to forget
why we are here - 
if only at all - 
yet we press on because
this day shall not stop.
When did it, you, we, us
get louder?
When did we cover our eyes
and ears
and wandered off, seeking
no longer greener pastures?
Who told us that lie?
What soothed our nightmares away
with empty promises
and thoughts of a better tomorrow
that never came?
When did we fall so hard?
And now,
fellow masses of the individual,
what do we do now?
Do we finally remove
the hands?
Can we say finally say that
"I am here?"

If only.

(photo taken at Elmwood Cemetery - 2017)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Island of Lepers Welcomes You


When I was younger, the only thing I knew about leprosy was what I learned from the Catholic Church. Even then, it still didn't resonate with me about the seriousness of it. In reading Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, I found myself in the middle of a society in which leprosy ruled with a diseased heart.

We are invited to Hawai'i by invitation of a seven year old girl named Rachel Kalama. She and her family live in Honolulu during the late 1800s under the rule of King Kalakaua. There, Rachel experiences the bliss of being a child in a world of paradise, until a rose coloured mark appears on her skin. After several tests, she is deemed to have leprosy and is sent to Kalaupapa, the settlement for lepers on the island of Moloka'i. And it is there that Rachel's life truly begins.

This book had me hooked from page one - you are immediately transported to Hawai'i with no intention of leaving until the final page. Brennert's writing gives the reader an up close view of the history of Hawai'i, filled with its many legends and myths, the fall of monarchs and the rise of becoming part of the United States, and even detailed information regarding leprosy. Moloka'i comes alive as the settlement slowly turns from a horrible place of pus and Death to one filled with music, laughter, and a desire to live no matter how long that may be. Love in all forms is among the damned and from that comes hope. Even when her family disappears from her life throughout the years, Rachel is grateful to have a second family made up people who love no less than those who are healthy. She loves and is loved in turn, of which not even leprosy can take away.

An excellent read and I look forward to reading more of Mr. Brennert's work.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

901 Story - The Women of India

They were older women, yet their voices were filled with joy and delight at seeing each other. They spoke of the right brain/left brain phenomenon and of being creative and not being psychotic. Their friendship seemed to have lasted for years through many fights, misunderstandings, and loves lost and gained. The one who did the most talking seemed to have seen more of the world than her friend. She came across as a bohemian who still kept to the Ways yet her talk reeked of order and discipline in being a teacher. Against the backdrop of a local Indian restaurant known for their delicious lunch buffet, the two women caught up with other's lives as the two strands of Life now came together once more. As I listened to them switch over to Roy Orbison and Leonard Cohen, I realized that they, I, everyone in that restaurant made Memphis what it was and what it is now. Over a million voices, loud and soft, poured into this city and claimed it for its own. A second plate of food called to me and so I stopped listening.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Meanwhile, Back in London . . .

I can't stop talking and thinking about this film.

Before I begin, let me just state for the record that I'm a big fan of Eva Green. I love her look, her style, and the fact that she would probably be a fan of my books and teas. After first seeing her in Penny Dreadful, I wanted to see her other works. So far, I haven't been disappointed.

Franklyn is a movie of despair. Doesn't really sound enticing, yet when you begin watching it, you'll be hooked. Meet Jonathan Preest, a masked vigilante who lives in the otherworldy place of Meanwhile City. He deals out justice to those who deserve it. In Meanwhile City, religion is key - they have a deity for EVERYTHING - yet Preest is the only atheist and he likes it that way. He's on the hunt for a being known as the Individual, a being so horrific that it's up to Preest to take it down.

Scroll over to modern day London and meet Milo, a young man who was jilted at the altar; Emilia, an artist who films her suicide attempts as "projects"; and Peter, a man who is searching for his lost son. In handling their despair, Emilia attempts suicide repeatedly with a flair of Gothic, Milo relies on his childhood friend, Sally, and Peter turns to God. These three beings will however come together under the most heinous of situations, all thanks to Preest from Meanwhile City.

I have a bad habit of picking apart a film's story (it's a probably a writer thing) and seeing if I can "solve" it before it ends. Two thirds into the film and I was truly stumped. I love films that make me think and also make me say, "What the $*#&," several times. Franklyn did just that. The concept of the film was quite original, yet at times it seemed to go a bit off track. Yet, the ending wraps everything up quite nicely that left me wanting to tell the world about what I had just watched. Which I did on Facebook. The music by Joby Talbot assisted greatly to the overall Gothic/exotic feel of the film. Meanwhile City was quite a delight to see, yet I wish that more scenes were set there. I loved the costumes of the "citizens" as well as the buildings - it felt like a Gothic dream come true.

If you are looking for something different to watch, I highly recommend Franklyn.

Here's the trailer!

The Beret has Spoken!

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Path of Tea - Liu An Black Tea

Global Tea Hut's March blend is "Golden Thread" -  Liu An Black Tea from Qimen County, Anhui Province in China. The entire processing time for the tea is more than half a year then stored for at least three years before it can be sold to people. As I stated in the previous tea post, most people mistake what is known to be red tea as "black tea". True black tea is artificially fermented post-production, while red tea (black tea) is oxidized through a long period of withering and rolling during production. According to Global Tea Hut, not too many people in the West have tried Liu An Black Tea, so drinking it is quite the experience. Since this evening proved to be a cold and now rainy one, I figured that it was a perfect time to fire up the kettle.

Once the leaves came into contact with the water, scents of smoky and fresh came into full force. I let the leaves steep a little longer than I should have yet it's all part of the learning process.

I will freely admit that I sniffed the leaves after dumping them out of my infuser. They smell divine! Hints of earthy, smoky, "green" all combined in the leaves.

The tea tasted delicate and not overpowering, with the "smoky" part hitting my taste buds right at the end. I tried a little honey and found that, just like last month's red tea, the honey enhanced the flavour rather than just make it sweet. This tea is good any time of day or night. If you are interested in purchasing this tea, just do an Internet search and several tea companies that offer Liu An will pop up, or you can subscribe to Global Tea Hut now and hopefully get this blend this month before the next one is delivered.

May Your Cup Never Dry!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Uncle Julien's SPECIAL Blend - NEW TEA BLEND

Writing the book Open A was both fun and a bit disturbing, yet I'm glad that it's finally out of my head and into the hands of readers. I've had several people tell me that they enjoyed reading it and one friend even told me that she never knew I could write so . . . kinky. 

However, something was missing from the world of the Fayettes. They, or rather one of them, needed a tea blend. Out of all of the characters, I truly enjoyed writing Uncle Julien the most. In case if anyone was wondering, I received inspiration from Edward Gorey illustrations and my own dark sense of humour. 

Julien Fayette is a man (we think) of many tastes and desires. He loves the finer things in life and looks down upon those who think so little of their lives. However, Julien has a deep and very dark secret. Actually, I take that back: Julien has SEVERAL deep and dark secrets. Women will do anything for him. Anything.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the NEW blend of VTC: Julien's Secret Tea!

This blend of assam tea, jasmine, rose hips, and lemongrass will satisfy your inner Decadent. In fact, I made this blend several months ago and when I opened the lid of the container tonight . . . wow.

This blend will be premiered at Coast Con THIS WEEKEND, provided I receive my order of plastic bags in time! Yikes! After the con, it will then be added to the Etsy store, as well as The Broom Closet, and the South Main Book Juggler - both located in the South Main Arts District in Memphis. I will also have the blend at my booth at the Cooper Young Community Farmers Market!

And while you're at it, why not order a copy of Open A through Dark Oak Press, or purchase a copy from me at CoastCon THIS WEEKEND!

You know . . . when I took a deep sniff of my creation tonight, I could have sworn I heard a deep chuckle behind me. Maybe it's the wind.

Maybe . . .

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Essay - The All American Vietnamese Restaurant

There is something to be said about a Vietnamese restaurant. Not only is it a haven of tasty food, but it is also a microcosm of the world. My Sometimes Friday Lunch Place is no exception. The food, hot and fresh, greets me in open buffet style as I locate a place to sit. Once I get my first plate, I return to my table, pull out a book, and quickly delve into my lunch. Although I'm completely focused on eating and my book du jour, my ears take in the surroundings. People from all walks of life frequent this place - they come for the food and possible conversation, of which both are in ready supply. Several medical students. A single woman. A hipster family and their literal 1.5 children. College students who use chopsticks the right way. An older woman who reeks of being bohemian as she piles her plate with sauteed tofu and green beans.  A corporate group taking in a "power lunch". Artists wearing paint splattered clothes and grins from ear to ear. Homeless people who know that they'll get a good meal for little money. At times, tables are shared by complete strangers who are brought together by more than the tasty spring rolls. Sometimes, there are conversations and sometimes, the smartphone is their silent and convenient friend. No one is excluded here; no one is refused service, unless if you're rude to the staff or to the other patrons. To date, I have yet to see someone be escorted from the restaurant. From time to time, I'll stop reading to watch the staff bring fresh food to the buffet area; as soon as they walk away, people rush with new plates and wide eyes to load up on hot chicken wings and tofu with bean sprouts. It's gotten to be a game of sorts and it brings a smile to my face as I join in for my second round of food. After I finish off my second plate and read to a good stopping point in my book, I pack up my belongings to return to corporate, yet I am confident that my remaining hours at work will pass by rather quickly - curry chicken with pineapple tends to have that effect.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Path of Tea - Dian Hong Red Tea

After looking at Global Tea Hut's website several times, I finally decided to take the plunge and become a subscriber. For $20 a month, you receive a free tin of their tea of the month, plus their magazine (see above) that talks about Taoism and tea as a way of life, plus other little goodies. After having a not so great day, I reached my apartment, only to find a package from Taiwan waiting at my door!

After taking part in a really cool book signing, thanks to the folks at South Main Book Juggler  I returned home to make my first cup of 2016 Dian Hong Red Tea while reading my magazine. So far, I have learned MANY things that contradict what is being said about tea in the West - that's going to be another blog post! So, on to the TEA!

The tea smelled divine when I opened the container. I knew that I was in for a treat. Rather than make a full pot of the tea, I decided to just make one cup. So glad I did - this means my tea will last longer!

After letting the tea leaves sit in the cup for a while, I let the tea cool down for a bit before trying it. The first sip was lightly fragrant and smooth - not harsh or bitter at all. In fact, I didn't need sweetener.  Since giving up coffee and going full tea last year, I have slowly weaned myself off adding sugar to my tea. I will add honey every so often, yet I prefer my tea to be unsweetened most of the time.. After taking several unsweetened sips of my tea, I did add a bit of honey to the cup. The tea did not turn sweet at all but rather the flavour was enhanced, making it a damn near perfect cup of tea. For the record (and this I just learned from reading my magazine) - black tea is actually called red tea. That's one of those things about tea that got mixed up in the West. In any case, this red tea can be consumed at all hours of the day. It's a great way to begin or end your day, or even a nice mid day moment.

I look forward to next month's installment - thank you, Global Tea Hut!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

~ footprint ~

NOTE: this poem will be submitted for the Long Exposure Magazine 2017 Nature Writing Anthology:

One footprint.
Nestled among the clover, 
Growing too soon yet still there.
My steps, carrying along
the thoughts of solitude
along the forest trail.
A prayer, one word spoken
with every touch and contact made
with leaves that linger on either side.
Heady, musk surrounds my
senses, leaving me stronger and with confidence.
I move forward, each step
softened under the green
that causes whispers from my shoes.
I am a nomad in modern time - 
reflective of what one, what I,
can do, feel, think, understand.
The sun, filtered through branches, provides a sense to
"go on, dear one."
I refuse to be still.
Dancing along mushrooms are
the children of the trees.
Silent, I am watchful and 
careful. One step. Another. Another.
I am no longer a stranger.
One footprint. Here upon the green 
that settles to create a welcoming path.
One footprint.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Japanese Rock in the 901

When I learned that Japanese rock band Kazha was now living in Memphis, I was overjoyed! I immediately looked them up and started listening to their music. I saw them perform at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention last year and realized that they have quite a following. I'm more than proud to say that I'm one of them. While on my way back from a lovely vacation with Viking in Chattanooga this past weekend, I popped in the CD Evolution - WOW! If you are looking for killer hard rock music mixed with poetic lyrics, you NEED to listen to Kazha. Their music is perfect for those who enjoy hard rock, Gothic rock, or just damn great music.

From the first track Wake Up II - Wake Me Up to the final track of Blend and Fly, Evolution is a solid listen that will make you put the CD on repeat. The songs range from hard hitting to soft and tender, with lyrics that talk of love and loss. Kazuha Oda, the lovely siren and bass player of the band, sings these songs as though she is showing you her soul. The lyrics are personal and emotional, yet you'll soon be singing along with her. None of the songs are "weak links" - the entire CD is excellent in every way. Several of the songs that really stood out for me were Breathe Again, Face Your Fears, and Break Into Pieces. These songs felt as though she actually performed in my car as I drove home. When she sings, you know it's real.

After giving the first concert of the weekend at Memphis Comic and Fantasy Convention, I ran into Kazuha in the bathroom. I greeted her in Japanese, to which she smiled and said that I spoke Japanese really well.

Best. Compliment. Ever!